Mecum’s Collector Car Auctions Redefine Used Car Values

by Don Elliott on June 5, 2012

I had the pleasure of spending a few days at Dana Mecum’s 25th Original Spring Classic Auto Auctions recently. Over two thousand cars and trucks and almost a thousand pieces of automotive memorabilia were offered for auction sale.

Buyers came from all around the world. Buyers bid live on the auction floor and others bid using the telephone. Bidders paid a $100 registration fee and paid at least a $500 deposit for the chance to bid. Regular attendees like me paid $15 at the door just to attend the event. For free, thousands of viewers watched the auction action live on Speedvision HD television.

Attending a collector car auction is an exciting experience, completely different from any other car auction. For the most part, the buyers and sellers have passion about the cars they own. For some, it is reliving a memory. For others, owning a collector car is an ego thing. And for everyone, it is an investment that may or may or may not pay off.

The prices can be staggering. A couple of months ago, a good friend of mine sold his 1968 Corvette convertible after years of meticulous restoration. I don’t know how much he sold it for or to whom, but a car very similar to his car sold at the Mecum car auction for $600,000. Talk about used car value! All I know for sure is that he was not the seller. I checked! I don’t have the heart to call and ask if it was his car.

Previewing the cars was worth the price of admission. At this auction, most of the cars were from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Sellers paid $250 to register their cars for the car auction. To get a premium run number, the cost was $1,000 or more. Not every car is accepted for consignment at a Mecum car auction. The requirements for entry are very specific. When selling cars for hundreds of thousands of dollars, the car must be represented, have access to a clear title, and some kind of a pedigree, regardless of the cost for a run number.

Sellers agree to pay a commission if their car is sold. The minimum commission is $500. Everything over $7,500 pays 5% if the car sells with no reserve, 7% if it sells with a reserve. A reserve is the minimum amount the seller will sell a car for. If the car does not reach the reserve amount, the seller is not obligated to sell the car.

Mecum’s Collector Car Auctions are public auctions, as compared to most other car auctions that are open only for licensed car dealers. Anybody who loves cars and has some money in the bank can bid on a collector car. More than cars were sold at the auction I went to. Everything from cars, trucks, boats, old signs, gas pumps, and a dragster went across the block. At the memorabilia sale, the Mecum auctioneers even sold a full-sized stuffed moose for $2,500. Yes, a moose at a collector car auction! Go figure.

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